Conrad Transport: A container hauling original

by Carroll McCormick

Seeing a good thing coming, Conrad Transport got in on the ground floor of the container hauling business in 1970 – just one year after the Halifax International Container Terminal officially opened – and became the first common-user container terminal in Canada.

All these years later, it’s still moving containers around the Maritime provinces, Upper Canada and the US.

“We were one of, if not the first, (carriers) to haul containers out of the Port of Halifax. We hauled them on flatbed trailers around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This was before my time. No one had container chassis then,” recounts Scott Conrad, vice-president, Conrad Transport, which is headquartered across Halifax Harbour in

For years, before the container business sailed into port though, the original company, Conrad Brothers, specialized in hauling steel products, machinery and building materials of all kinds. Scroll back in time even further to the 1950s, and we see the founders, Conrad’s father Jim and his brother Fraser, expanding from owning a gas station into buying trucks, and hauling beach sand and gravel from the Eastern Shore.

“My father and my uncle were born to a farmer in Cole Harbour. They did very well for themselves. We wouldn’t be where we are if not for them,” Conrad says.

Anticipating that container hauling would become a big thing, Conrad Brothers, which owns a 550-acre quarry in Dartmouth, incorporated Conrad Transport in 1978; around the time construction began on the Fairview Cove Terminal.

Even as separate entities, the two companies help each other out when the trucking gets frantic. “If Conrad Brothers are busy, if we can hook one of our trucks onto a belly dump, we fill in for them,” Conrad says. “You can’t mention Conrad Transport without mentioning Conrad Brothers, which is the parent company.”

Any way you cut up the duties, this is still one big family enterprise. Scott’s brother Brian is the president of Conrad Transport and between them they have four sons in the business who run the warehouse, drive, and take care of duties such as the health and safety committee, log books, and dangerous goods training. (On the Conrad Brothers side are Fraser’s sons, Kim, Rod and Brent).

Scott Conrad went straight from high school into the family business at age 17, in 1977.  He worked around the yard and spent a decade driving between the yard and Halterm in Halifax, around the city, and around Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Brother Brian has been with Conrad Transport full-time since 1976.

Pretty much everything that can be done on land with a container, the company does.

“A lot of fish comes from Newfoundland in reefer trucks. We transload it into reefer containers for (shipment) overseas. We also have containers coming into Halifax that we transload into dry vans and reefer trailers. They go to Montreal, Toronto, and the Midwest. We farm some loads out to other companies for long-haul delivery. We haul import and export containers. We haul just about anywhere. We move some containers 10 miles, others 500 miles or more,” Conrad says.

The company has a 9,600 sq.-ft. warehouse for storing product. In its four-acre yard a 70,000-lb capacity full container machine and an empty container machine move the cans around.

Off the top of his head, Conrad figures that the company moves 6,000 containers a year. “We are probably in the top five container movers in Nova Scotia. One time we were number one and we may still be number one.”

The container business in Halifax is stable and Conrad does not see much room for the growth of container traffic into Halifax.

“There is only so much freight moving in and out,” he comments.

The company has around 90 container trailers and 24 tractors. With the exception of one 2015 Volvo, bought when there were not any Freightliners available, the tractors are all Freightliners: A few are Columbias and Classics, vintage 2005 to 2007. The Freightliners 2008 or younger are Cascadias.

“Our 2016 trucks are Freightliner Cascadia Evolution. At this time we intend to stick with them. They are little bit more fuel-efficient. The last five or six trucks have automated transmissions.”

With the tanking of the Canadian dollar, there may not be more new truck purchases anytime soon.

“The last trucks we bought were six months ago. This is when the Canadian dollar went bad. We are on hold at this time to see what happens,” Conrad says.

Although the port is on the Halifax side of the harbour, the company fleet works out of the Dartmouth side, just 10 minutes from the A. Murray Mackay Bridge, which makes landfall almost on top of the port. Other than more fuel-efficient trucks, the other techniques the company uses to keep fuel consumption down is a speed limiter setting of 105 km/h and weekly monitoring of truck mileage and fuel.

The company employs 24 full-time drivers, six full-time owner/operators and half a dozen part-time owner/operators. Warehouse, maintenance and office personnel bring the total to about 45 employees.

“My father and my uncle were always proud of the fact that they employed as many people as they did, and the families that they have been able to help, and contributed to charitable things,” Conrad says. “I think that they would be proud of how we have been able to employ approximately 100 people between both companies, grow and still support the Dartmouth and area charities.

“As far as the family business, between the two companies, we have been big supporters of the Dartmouth General Hospital from its inception. We support a lot of local charities and whatnot.

“We support Cole Harbour with different things. This is something we are proud of being able to do.”

A foundation built with countless hours of dedication lies beneath any successful company, but Conrad keeps his counsel simple when asked for any tricks of the trade: “Service is a big thing. Supply service and it keeps you working.”

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